Do you wonder what's the best power tool brands on the market today? Ask any woodworker or DIY'er and you'll get a wide range of answers.
Now ask carpenters, plumbers, and electricians, you'll probably end up with a completely different list of top power tool brands.
Why is that?
Here's the deal...
Though very different in their demands, tools for woodworkers and DIYers often have one thing in common. Location.
Unless you work for a large company that mass produces wooden products, chances are you do most of your woodworking from the comfort of your home workshop or a workshop you own.
With DIYers, it is a given that you are working from your home, or else you would be classified under a different designation.
However, working from home or a non-professional workshop is about as far as the comparison for tools between the two markets go.
In all other respects, woodworking and DIYers seek entirely different things in the tools they buy. Though it can ultimately be whittled down to a single comparison that encompasses multiple factors: value vs quality.
For the DIYer, value will often be the primary concern. Keep in mind, there isn't a hard and fast set of rules for determining which product will provide the most value. Ultimately, it'll come down to what you need the tool for and how often you intend to use the tool.
Some DIYers are avid weekend warriors, regularly finding assorted projects to work on or things that need repairing.
Some of the more enterprising DIYers will even loan or sell their skills out to close associates. For this segment of the DIY market, the tools desired may end up being mid-tier or even professional quality.
However, there are plenty of DIYers who will only use their tools in rare occasions. Maybe they just like having a complement of tools available in case something happens or the odd thing needs to be repaired.
Perhaps the occasional DIYer gets the occasional bug to “be handy” and make something. Regardless, this DIYer will likely gravitate towards the consumer end of the market where prices are lower.
Still, both types of DIYer are far different from the woodworker in regards to the demands of their tools. Even if a woodworker only uses the tools occasionally, they need to be excellent quality more often than not.
This is especially true if the woodworker is nominally skilled. Woodworkers will almost exclusively see the mid-tier tool market as the floor and generally prefer the best of the professional grade tools.
This tool reviews guide is specifically tailored to YOU, the DIY'er and woodworking, NOT the construction worker in a specific trade.
Popular Tool Brands
What Are The Top 19 Brands?
For those of you that are curious as to what the popular tool brands are, we created this list of tool brands just for you.
- Black & Decker
- Bosch Tools
- Craftsman Tools
- Delta Machinery
- DeWalt Power Tools
- Dremel Tools
- Hitachi Power Tools
- Jet Tools
- Makita Tools
- Milwaukee Tool
- Porter Cable
- Rockwell Tools
- Ryobi Tools
- Skil Tools
Discover the Pro's and Con's of Each
Now we'll go into more detail of each of the major tool brands. They're listed in alphabetical order and not by tool brands ranked.
We go into some insanely specific backgrounds to give you a solid understanding of the top tool brands and how they'll relate to your specific needs.
Just because we may like tool manufacturer over another, doesn't mean it's a perfect fit for you. We let you decide which one is the best brand of power tools based off your particular interests.
Black & Decker
Despite its continued popularity unto this very day, Black & Decker is actually an older brand of power tool, founded over a century ago. Initially started as a machine shop in Baltimore, Maryland, and the originators S. Duncan Black and Alonzo G. Decker in particular, are responsible for many of the standard designs found across power tool brands today.
With the advent of the blue collar worker who had enough disposable income to purchase their own power tools, Black & Decker saw an opening in the power tool market for a consumer grade of power tools. Since that time, the company has risen to become the veritable king of the consumer grade power tool market.
However, that title is earned through dollars and cents, not through craftsmanship. As such, Black & Decker is often the least expensive manufacturer of a wide variety of power tools.
So many in fact that there are fewer categories where they do not off the least expensive budget option than the ones in which they do.
For this article’s purposes, however, that creates a relatively narrow offering, though a distinctly important one. Suffice it to say that Black & Decker will rarely, if ever, blow your socks off with a tool of incredible quality.
Instead, the brand prefers to manufacture just passable tools for the lowest price possible. Unfortunately, this translates to power tools which often have cheaply made components that are liable to break. Especially if they're made of plastic. As well as motors that can struggle to keep up with even a moderate use on medium sized jobs.
As such, Black & Decker should be avoided by most except those who have the fewest funds or use their tools only on the rarest of occasions. If you have a job that requires all-day use of a given tool, Black & Decker is not the brand for you.
This means the regular DIYers are better off going with a more reliable, durable, and powerful brand.
Woodworkers are likely already well aware that Black & Decker does not suit their needs. Not only will the tool not provide the necessary quality of action but the precision will falter more than even most other consumer grade power tools.
However, in fairness, there are the occasional bright spots in the Black & Decker catalog that perform admirably or much better than expected. Especially considering the price range. Still, it should be noted that the tools which offer this kind of value only come in a few ranges.
First, tools that are found on pretty much every kind of job site will generally be of a better quality. This includes bell cows like the power drill and the circular saw. One of the few saw categories where Black & Decker performs to expectations.
Another broad tool arena in which Black & Decker might provide a solid value is when the action itself is relatively straight-forward. In this regard, the power drill and circular saw are able to double-dip. This is due to both tools’ actions are fairly direct and don't require as refined a motor and machinery architecture as something like a right angle drill or jigsaw.
Keep in mind, for the price, Black & Decker actually produces an amazing quality of power tool. However, the old adage “you get what you pay for,” often steps up to temper that excitement a bit.
Ultimately, if your job will put the power tool through its paces or require a fair degree of precision, you're better served looking elsewhere.
Even older than Black & Decker, Bosch has been a reliable producer of professional grade products for well over 130 years. Interestingly, the originator of the company, Robert Bosch, actually got his start manufacturing electronic components for automobiles.
In fact, it wasn't until a little bit before World War II that Bosch started to develop power tools. Even odder, the company’s initial approach was to produce consumer grade power tools that featured hard plastic bodies. The Bosch company was actually the first to produce a hard plastic bodied power tool.
Thankfully, the quality of Bosch products shown through even their original attempts to enter the consumer market. And they quickly became known as a manufacturer of power tools that were ideal for professional construction workers.
Specifically, Bosch has earned its reputation for producing power tools which can be used all day under the toughest of conditions. And they won't suffer from some of the reliability issues that consumer grade and mid-tier power tools brands will.
A power drill manufactured in 1945 was donated to Bosch for historical preservation. This 71 year old drill only required the motor’s brushes, the electrical cord, and the handle to be replaced in all the time of its use.
This alone is a monumental testament to the durability and reliability of the Bosch brand if the power tools are properly cared for. Furthermore, the replacement for this drill is also still working. 25 years after purchase!
In terms of DIYers, Bosch can be a mixed bag. For the regular users, Bosch may be a bit on the expensive side. But as we have already well-established, that investment can more than pay for itself many times over.
For the price you would pay for a Bosch power tool, it would likely outlast purchasing 3 or more power tools of the same type from consumer grade brands.
In fact, even most of the other professional grade power tool manufacturers cannot compete with Bosch’s durability and reliability. Granted, those other professional grade brands make their names with other qualities, but it's still an impressive feat that Bosch is generally one of the most reliable tool brands across numerous categories.
Of course, the infrequent DIYer is unlikely to use their Bosch power tools often enough to justify the purchase. This doesn't mean that an occasional DIYer should not purchase a Bosch since they will still receive and amazing quality tool that will likely serve them for years to come.
However, if the DIYer’s employment of power tools is too infrequent, the cost may not be worth it for years.
For woodworkers, Bosch is similarly a mixed bag. Depending on the use, Bosch is an excellent brand. However, Bosch has focused far more on reliability and durability than it has precision.
There are a select few power tools used quite often in woodworking for which Bosch doesn't have a precise enough offering. For instance, Bosch’s jigsaws are almost exclusively orbital in their cutting action. And even the pendulum jigsaws aren't precise enough for the most skillful of woodworking projects.
Found as long ago as any of the other more well-known brands on our list, this company’s unique name isn't a result of a melding of last names from 2 founders. But instead is the product of a different kind of melding of words.
Bostitch, quite simply, is the portmanteau of the words “Boston” and “stitch.” Still, the founder, one Thomas Biggs of Arlington, Massachusetts, but the company wouldn't change its name until Biggs was no longer a member of the company.
Regardless, this brand has focused almost single-mindedly on a very specific power tool niche. Fastening. If you know a little bit about the company, this should not come as a big surprise considering that Bostitch, or its ancestral predecessor, is responsible for some of the biggest innovations in stabling.
In fact, the strip staples which became and continue to be the industry standard was developed by the Bostitch brand. Over the years, Bostitch became known as one of the best brands for professionals who required a stapler, nail gun, and even dispensers of numerous types of adhesives.
Of course, few companies can survive on a single product alone, especially when they're competing with so many others all approaching different markets. As such, Bostitch has recently branched out into manufacturing a limited number of power tools as well.
This experiment is mixed to say the least. Part of this issue is likely due to Bostitch being one of many brands that fall under Black & Decker’s umbrella.
In this regard, Bostitch can be seen as intended to be a step above Porter-Cable, which is currently trying to regain its professional grade status. And one step below DeWalt, which is currently trying to convince consumers that it has already regained its professional grade status.
This confusing cannibalism of brands only to repurpose them for smaller and smaller segments of markets places Bostitch as being marketed towards newly minted professionals. While Bostitch isn't genuinely professional grade, it does offer a nice price point with relatively decent quality for those just starting out.
Sadly, Bostitch’s bread and butter, all things fastening, no longer provides the same level of professional action that one would have expected before their acquisition by Black & Decker. This brand can only be considered acceptable for DIYers.
Though, Bostitch has not fallen so far that the regular DIYer should pass on this brand. Still, even DIYers should opt for a different brand if their need falls along the cutting or power drilling actions. The two broad categories of power tools Bostitch currently provides beyond fasteners.
Simply, woodworkers, especially those of a high skill level, expect their tools to function with consistency and reliably every time they pick it up. Sadly, that isn't a claim Bostitch can make--at least, not over an extended period of time.
Master woodworkers would do well to seek out a different brand that provides a more reliable experience or suffer the misfires. And the holes left in woodworking projects due to incomplete firing of a staple or nail gun.
While not quite as old as some of the more established brands, Craftsman tools have still been around nearly a century. However, unlike many of these other legacy brands, Craftsman tools was not the natural outgrowth of early entrepreneurial or a technological innovation.
Instead, the Craftsman brand can be seen as one of the first predesigned brands. Specifically, Craftsman tools was a creation of the Sears Roebuck and sold in their early 20th century catalogs. Along with pretty much everything else you could imagine purchasing.
During those first year, Craftsman focused on producing hand tools and became known as one of the premiere hand tool brands of the day. This dedication to the simplest of tools flows through to this very day as Craftsman was awarded the title for best hand tool manufacturer as recently as 10 years ago.
Of course, not one to get lost in crowd, Sears quickly had Craftsman start making power tools as well.
For decades Craftsman was known as a professional grade tool manufacturer. Whether for hand tools or power tools. However, the brand quickly turned it sights to other markets including lawn care.
Unfortunately, in the 80s, the brand decided to turn towards the consumer market which saw a notable drop in quality and led professionals to look elsewhere for tools. In March of 2017, the Craftsman brand was purchased by Black & Decker, making it just the most recent acquisition.
Though it's still too soon to tell whether the Craftsman brand will suffer in quality much as many of the other same brands purchased by Black & Decker have.
In terms of markets, Craftsman tools splits the issue. In regards to hand tools, Craftsman can fill any niche. They are well made and fairly reliable.
While they may cost a tad more than the “budget” hand tools, the difference in price is not so much that even the occasional DIYer should be turned away. As such, every level of DIYer should seriously consider Craftsman hand tools when purchasing.
For woodworkers, this can be a dealer’s choice situation. Many highly skilled woodworkers will still find exceptional value in Craftsman hand tools. However, Craftsman are certainly not the pinnacle of hand tool manufacturers.
Though you're liable to invest far more in the top hand tools than may necessarily be justified. Still, even master woodworkers will often have a set of Craftsman hand tools. Especially considering that some of the more important hand tools to woodworking, namely chisels, are far easier to modify after purchase than power tools.
However, power tools definitely creates a bit of a divide. Since seeking out the consumer market, contemporary Craftsman power tools no longer bear the same degree of quality they once had which allowed them to be suitable for even highly skilled woodworkers.
As such, Craftsman power tools are exclusively set in the realm of DIYers. Still, the brand’s power tools are at least decent enough that they can satisfy both the occasional DIYer as well as the more consistent consumer.
Of course, it might not be a bad idea to wait and see how the acquisition by Black & Decker will affect Craftsman’s quality, if at all, before investing in their power tools. Regardless, considering that Black & Decker has already merged with Stanley tools, one of the other premier brands of hand tools, Craftsman hand tools should still be a safe bet for any consumer.
Started in 1919 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Delta has always been a manufacturer of tools, though it started out manufacturing smaller tools for home use before expanding to produce light-industrial power tools. However, it was not until 1945 when Delta was purchased by the, then, mega-conglomerate Rockwell International that this brand earned its reputation as a premier power tool manufacturer.
In terms of the market, it is not at all advised for the rare DIYer to venture into the Delta catalog. While Delta produces high quality power tools, there simply is no conceivable way a person who might use there tools once every couple months can justify spending the amount of money that a Delta costs. The only exception to this rule is if you are a highly skilled or highly devoted woodworker. In this instance, you will have to weigh heavily whether the cost of the Delta is worth the precision given its occasional use.
Keep in mind, once you get to the professional grade of power tools, the stratification does not slow down or narrow. In fact, if anything, the degree of difference among professional grade power tools--especially in regards to high precision fields like woodworking--will actually grow. As such, it is best to understand the different degrees of professional grade power tools as they apply to woodworking and where Delta fits into them.
The highest quality of power tools for woodworkers are generally reserved exclusively for professional woodworkers who construct woodworking projects for a living. This consumer works 40 hours a week or more producing woodworking projects that then sell for a large sum of money. In this more narrow class of professional grade power tools you will find some, but not all, of Delta’s products.
However, among this professional class of woodworkers, Delta is a modestly respected brand, though some of the power tools offered are respected more than others. However, Delta has ran into issues with a global market recently and this has led to an inconsistent quality among their products. As such, Delta products that are more than 20 years old are often reported as being superior in quality to some of the newer models.
Of course, a lot of this inconsistency can be traced back to 2 sources: first, Delta consolidated their company with the Porter-Cable brand of power tools. Unfortunately, Porter-Cable was one of the many professional grade brands of power tools that were acquired by Black & Decker and subsequently turned into consumer grade tools.
This consolidation is ultimately responsible for the second issue that can cause inconsistency among Delta power tools: Black & Decker, and by proxy their numerous owned brands of power tools, are all outsourced and manufactured in East Asia. This in and of itself does not necessarily mean the tools in question are of a poor quality.
However, because manufacturing regulations are different, the factory in which the Delta power tool is manufactured will have a huge impact on whether or not it is a premium power tool worth its price. Unfortunately, it can be exceedingly difficult to figure out which factory the supplier, like Amazon or Home Depot, orders from and even more difficult to determine whether that factory in question holds itself to a higher standard than its competitors or not.
DeWalt started around the same time as Craftsman. A bit later than some of the other legacy power tool brands, but still early enough to be almost 100 years old. However, unlike Craftsman, DeWalt’s origin followed the more “traditional” route.
An entrepreneur developed an innovation within the power tool market that took the industry by storm and led to the development of a professional grade power tool manufacturer.
In DeWalt’s case, this innovation was the radial arm saw, the precursor of today’s miter saw. However, the company was sold a short 2 years after its official incorporation. Still, through the early and mid-20th century, DeWalt became known as a professional grade of power tools.
Excelling especially in the category of tools that had initially made them famous. Saws. Yet, DeWalt was destined to suffer a similar fate as many of the top professional grade brands.
In 1960, DeWalt was sold once again, this time to Black & Decker. Thankfully, Black & Decker didn't immediately begin outsourcing DeWalt’s manufacturing. At least not for a few more decades.
The brand’s quality didn't initially suffer as many of the other Black & Decker acquisitions. However, once globalization and outsourcing took hold in full, DeWalt saw its status as a professional grade power tool and subsequent reputation fall with many of the other brands housed under the Black & Decker umbrella.
Recently, DeWalt has begun the slow climb back into the professional grade market. In fairness, the brand was generally always marketed as the professional grade power tool within the Black & Decker holding.
But mere assertion and a heftier price tag don't true professional grade make. As such, DeWalt is still more of a upper-middle tier brand with an often professional grade price tag.
Though, DeWalt is also one of the few brands on our list to provide a full suite of hand tools for whatever purpose you need. DIYers of all stripes can technically find products within this brand that may suit them.
However, DeWalt is truly a brand without a place in this regard. While there are markets that are exceptionally well-suited for DeWalt, the DIYer and woodworking markets are likely not those in question.
For one, the DIYer market seeks value, regardless of whether the consumer is a regular weekend warrior or rarely straps on a tool belt. While DeWalt power tools are more than capable of providing the quality necessary to satisfy this market, the brand’s price definitely limits the value DIYers are looking for.
In fact, if a DIYer is willing to spend this kind of money, they are better served seeking a brand known more for its reliability--something DeWalt can be hit or miss about.
In terms of woodworkers, DeWalt is not nearly precise enough with many of the most important actions, especially the cutting actions, to truly justify the purchase. One notable exception is for rough cutting where DeWalt can still provide a solid amount of power at a comparably competitive price.
Beyond power tools, DeWalt hand tools are not known for being of exceptional quality, but neither are they known for being substandard either. However, much like their power tools, DeWalt will often market their hand tools as a professional grade and price them accordingly.
There is little reason to favor a DeWalt hand tool over say a Craftsman of Stanley.
Dremel is the first brand on our list that primary got its start manufacturing a specific type of tool and has not yet truly expanded beyond that initial offering. That is not to say that Dremel does not offer any tools beyond what they are known for, specifically rotary tools. However, the tools Dremel produces that are not of either the rotary design or similar in nature, like the multi-purpose tool, are notably lacking.
In fact, the only other category beyond those 2 that Dremel does manufacture are saws. Still, Dremel does not even offer a full suite of saws used in woodworking, notable missing various industrial woodworking and general construction saws. Instead, the only 2 types of saws that Dremel offers are compact circular saws and moto saws.
With such a slim offering of tool categories, especially compared to most, if not all of the other brands on this list, it might seem as though Dremel would have a hard time competing with many of the other brands. However, where Dremel sacrifices breadth, it more than makes up for it with depth. To point, Dremel products are on the higher end of professional grade in regards to their rotary tools and multi-purpose tools.
In fact, for most purposes, there are few brands that are considered in the same category as Dremel and half of those are not even tools designed for woodworking. When examining what consumer look for when they feel that Dremel cannot satisfy their needs and skill level, you will regularly see these consumers opting to purchase tools designed for other fields entirely--especially for dental work.
While the woodworkers who purchase professional grade dental power tools certainly stand by their choice, it should say something about the general quality of Dremel tools that to go a step up you generally have to look for tools which are designed to work on much harder materials and provide a far greater degree of precision than even woodworking generally demands.
As such, it should not be surprising that the Dremel brand almost necessitates itself to be excluded from the casual DIYer market. Like with most other top-tier professional grade power tools, this becomes an issue of value, not quality. Like with all professional grade power tools, a casual DIYer, even one that may put their tools to use nearly every weekend, will likely not use them enough to justify the cost.
However, for other professional grade power tool brands this caveat can occasionally be overlooked due to how often certain power tools are indicated. For instance, some of the more commonly used power tools like circular saws or power drills may warrant a professional grade price tag for a regular weekend warrior who will likely get their money’s worth after a couple years or even a handful of exceptionally large jobs.
With Dremel, on the other hand, the sheer limitation of offerings and the specific uses of the tools may limit this a great deal. While rotary tools and multi-purpose tools are indeed exceedingly versatile, they are still unlikely to be used as often as a power drill or circular saw for most of a DIYer’s projects.
Festool is a professional grade of power tools that sits at the summit, along with a few other brands, as one of the best brands available. However, this is not to suggest that Festool is without its faults. However, for the purposes of woodworking, you will be hard pressed to find a brand that can check as many boxes as Festool. Granted, their repertoire of power tools may be a bit more limited than some of the other brands on--especially considering which niche they apply to for our purposes--but they are still one of the best investments you can make.
To begin with, Festool markets itself as a carpentry, general construction, and woodworking brand of power tools. It is the latter which we are interested in, but it is important to note that this brand prides itself on providing a suite of power tools that are agile enough to accomplish the requisite tasks associated with each field.
As such, and considering the different fields place higher importance or various qualities of their tools than the others, it is all the more surprising that Festool not only succeeds in this regard but does so well enough that most of the highest skilled professionals have taken notice and more or less agree. Of course, that is not to say that Festool is out and out the “best” brand of power tools on the market, but you would be hard pressed to find a professional at the highest levels of the field who would not at least seriously consider the question.
Of course, the primary limitation when it comes to Festools is that they do not manufacture industrial woodworking equipment. Ultimately, if you need a large, stationary power tool for the largest and heaviest of jobs, Festool does not have a product to offer let alone satisfy your needs. Still, a great deal of tasks within woodworking are accomplished, if not necessitated, by handheld power tools. In this regard, Festool is hard to beat.
If it has not already become apparent, this brand is not for the more casual DIYer. Of course, should a DIYer purchase a Festool, they will not be disappointed as the brands adherence to the strictest standards of excellence will become immediately apparent after little use. However, in the professional grade power tool market, specifically the non-industrial power tools, Festool will generally be far more expensive than even the other professional grade power tool manufacturers--often by double or more.
As such, the DIYer is unlikely to get the kind of value that best suits their needs from Festool. If a Makita or Milwaukee is difficult to justify for the owner that might use their tools 10 to 20 hours a month, then Festool becomes a losing battle where you are merely playing Devil’s advocate. Of course, Festool can potentially goose that value by providing additional features which no other brand offers from their vast catalog of over 350 patents, but all the extra features in the world will not make up for the time the tool is spent sitting in the garage collecting dust.
Grizzly is a professional grade brand that sits in the middle of the further stratification of the professional grade market. While they have definitely risen above the point of simply meeting professional grade standards, they still have a ways to go before they can be considered one of the better woodworking power tool manufacturers. In fairness, this is not truly Grizzly’s fault as the company is explicitly marketed to the hobbyist woodworker.
As such, Grizzly products are unfairly judged when compared to brands which are intended to be used for industrial woodworking purposes. However, when it comes to the middle of the professional grade woodworking tools, Grizzly does offer advantages over some of its competitors in the same class. Keep in mind, the middle range of professional grade woodworking tools are all occupied by brands which have similar manufacturing origins.
Specifically, this class of woodworking power tool are manufactured in either China or Taiwan. As noted with the Deltas and will be noted with the Jets, stationary woodworking tools have a rocky reputation and the quality of the tool will often hinge on in which factory the specifical tool was manufactured. The same brand and same type of tool manufactured in different factories may demonstrate a wide divergence of quality.
Thankfully, Grizzly does not seem to suffer from these issues quite as much as some of the other middle range professional grade woodworking tool brands. Perhaps this is because the Grizzly company makes it a point to purchase their products from factories located in Taiwan--factories which are noted for producing better quality professional grade woodworking tools than those made in Chinese factories.
Another reason Grizzly may be noted for having less durability issues within this professional grade woodworking tool category is because they staff regional centers with professionals who are skilled at maintaining the machines and provide tham a complete machine shop. In fact, Grizzly is not above taking a tool received from their factory that may be defective and simply fixing it at the regional office.
Regardless, it is important to understand who Grizzly woodworking tools are designed for and what limitations you can generally expect. First, Grizzly is clearly not a brand for the casual DIYer. While their parent company, SIEG, markets Grizzly as a hobbyist product and Grizzly markets themselves for light industrial woodworking, nowhere is there any mention of a consumer who might only use the tool once or twice a month.
In this regard, it is not a great value or investment to purchase a Grizzly as a DIYer unless you are a dedicated woodworker. However, even in that field, Grizzly is best suited for woodworkers who are either still in the beginner stages or advanced to an intermediate skill level. Advanced woodworkers will likely find the Grizzly brand a bit subpar. Much of this has to do with the fact that while Grizzly is precise enough for most general woodworking purposes, the brand is not so exacting that a master woodworker could produce their very best work with Grizzly power tools.
Hitachi is one of those brands which got started in a completely different field but saw its products provide unique applications for power tools and quickly began manufacturing products in this market as well. However, Hitachi’s original products are at least closer in purpose and design with power tools than perhaps some of the other brands that went this route.
Specifically, Hitachi developed tools for copper mining, though many of their original advancements did focus on on electric motors. Started in 1910 by Namihei Odaira, Hitachi quickly moved from its eponymous location to Tokyo. However, the original focus on electric motors has definitely paved the way for some of Hitachi’s current products which, while not leading the industry, definitely find a nice niche within our market focus.
Still Hitachi currently sells a wide range of products, mostly electronic in nature, though many informational systems dot their portfolio as well. Still, Hitachi is one of the few brands on our list that has not undergone an acquisition with a competitor which has allowed the brand to remain fairly consistent over the years. Unfortunately, this consistency has never quite reached the peak of professional grade. As such, Hitachi power tools will need to be examined closely, though some of their models are certainly an excellent option.
Specifically, Hitachi excels with their cordless models of power tools. Considering their dedication to electric motors, it makes sense that Hitachi’s cordless power tools would display a quality value. Still, even within the cordless submarket, Hitachi is not known for being a truly professional grade of power tool. However, given the recent decline of many of American brand’s status as professional grade power tools, Hitachi has seen an opening and is attempting to capture the coveted professional grade spot.
As it stands, Hitachi power tools are more suitable for DIYers. Granted, there are few limitations within this market for Hitachi to thrive, but the brand will have difficulty breaking into the woodworking market where a much higher degree of quality is necessary. Still, Hitachi does offer a few advantages to the DIYer that make it an almost ideal brand.
First, Hitachi power tools, while not the absolute best in class, are fairly reliable with an adequate action, almost regardless the power tool category. In fact, Hitachi is best understood as a mid-tier power tool brand, slightly above the consumer grade but not yet professional grade. However, for the DIYer this is a great place for a power tool brand to be. Essentially, Hitachi power tools will provide a fair degree of quality at a price point that still allows solid value. This value is even greater if the DIYer seeks a cordless model power tool.
Unfortunately, Hitachi is not nearly as well suited for woodworkers. Even if a woodworker were in the market for rough power tools at the beginning of the process, they would be better served investing a little bit more and getting a truly professional grade power tool. As such, until Hitachi is able to make that leap to the professional grade, woodworkers are advised to purchase a higher quality power tool.
Jet is another brand on our list that has a bit of an inauspicious start and took a more circuitous path to becoming a manufacturer of power tools than most. For one, this is one of the more recently founded companies on our list. Rather that starting at the turn of the 20th century or just following World War I like most of the other brands, Jet got its start in 1958. Moreover, it was not until relatively recently that Jet even began to offer tools for any of the markets we are covering.
In fact, as the name might suggest, Jet power tools actually got their start making chain hoists and trolleys for the airline industry. Still, the company did at least begin in a somewhat familiar way: with a single person who saw a need and provided an innovation. The person was Leslie P. Sussman. However, Sussman was not satisfied with merely pulling and hoisting airplanes as the company quickly expanded to manufacture power air tools used in the construction of airliners.
Still, it would not be until the 1980s that Jet would first produce their tools for woodworking projects--a full 5 years after manufacturing tools for use in metalworking. Since that time, however, Jet has become known as a solid brand in the woodworking industry. However, like some of the other premiere woodworking tool manufacturers, Jet carries many of the same limitations in regards to the products offered.
Specifically, Jet does not make hand tools nor does the company manufacture general purpose power tools. In terms of general construction, industrial grade metalworking and woodworking tools are all that Jet produces. As such, this necessarily excludes casual DIYers. Even the more consistent DIYers will still have difficulty finding enough general uses for most of Jet’s woodworking tools to justify spending the kind of money the brand costs.
However, if regards to woodworkers, Jet presents a bit of a push pull situation. Jet was once known for being a high end, professional grade producer of industrial woodworking power tools. Unfortunately, Jet has gone the way of Delta and begun outsourcing their manufacturing to Chinese factories. In fact, both Delta and Jet woodworking tools will often use nearly identical chassis. This can create the same issues that Delta faces whereby a product made in one factory is by and far superior to a product made in another factory.
However, unlike Delta, there has been enough research to track down the Jet products and provide at least a semblance of direction. Specifically, Jet outsources most of their manufacturing to both China and Taiwan. However, the products that are made in Taiwan are reportedly far superior and more reliable than those which are made in mainland China.
As such, it is vital that anyone who considers purchasing a Jet woodworking power tool first does some research on the seller. Make it a point to inquire from the seller where the factory that the Jet tools they sell is located. If the seller will not divulge such information, you are better off either going to a different seller or choosing a different brand. It makes little sense to roll the dice when this kind of money is on the line.
Makita is similar to Hitachi in a couple ways. First, both manufacturers are legacy companies that got their start in Japan during the turn of the century. Second, both Makita and Hitachi initially specialized in electric motors which has paid off dividends for their power tools--though, each brand has taken the insight gleaned from an electric motor specialization and applied it in different ways. Interestingly, it was not until almost 1960 that Makita turned to focus almost exclusively on the power tool market. However, since then, Makita has quickly risen through the ranks and solidified itself as a high quality brand.
Makita finds itself in an interesting, if unenviable, situation in this brand analysis. Makita power tools are most definitely a professional grade of power tools. However, this brand distinguishes itself from the other brands of professional grade power tools primarily along a single metric: power. Makita power tools are quite often the most powerful in their class, largely due to the brand’s excellence of motor design.
However, when it comes to precision and reliability, Makita is not the best in its class. This is not to say that Makita power tools are substandard in this regard, simply they do not stand out. Unfortunately, as we are examining markets which hover at the extremes, Makita finds itself on the outside looking in--a rare situation indeed.
For the DIYer, Makita power tools often carry a price tag that does not warrant the investment. Keep in mind, if you are going to be using a given power tool all day, every day for work on some of the more rigorous job sites, then Makita is a great brand to have by your side. However, DIYers rarely find themselves in need of such a tool--even the more frequent DIYers.
As such, the deservedly professional price tag that accompanies a Makita Power Tool is simply too high an investment to be worth a DIYers expense--especially considering that Makita is not necessarily known for being the most reliable of brands that will last decades or more.
For woodworkers, the issues with Makita power tools are similar but compounded. Because Makita has focused so singly on providing the most powerful actions within their power tools, the tools in question will often suffer from a decrease in precision. To an extent, this is unavoidable, and Makita at least makes a genuine and not altogether unsuccessful effort to alleviate some of these issues.
However, when woodworking projects at the highest skill levels demand a degree of precision within millimeters, Makita power tools are simply incapable of meeting that exceptionally high standard. As such, Makita power tools are best left for the early stages of woodworking--the “rough” work. Unfortunately, this is where one of Makita’s issues with the DIYer market overlaps with the woodworking market. If a woodworker is purchasing a “rough” stage power tool, they are better served seeking reliability.
Keep in mind, even for the rough stage of woodworking projects, the woodworker will want a professional grade power tool, but in this case, the power tool needs to provide a reliable action over the course of years to justify the purchase.
Milwaukee power tools have always been professional grade. Following World War I, Henry Ford of Ford automobiles tasked the founder of Milwaukee tools, A. H. Peterson, with producing a power drill that was small and powerful enough to be used on his assembly lines. Succeeding in the challenge, the company soon made a name for itself by manufacturing power tools with the input of the people using them, thus making them ideal for professionals by nature.
In terms of the stratification of professional grade power tools, something that is often not an issue until a unique set of demands--like precision--are applied, Milwaukee finds its home with Makita and Bosch near the bottom. Keep in mind, the bottom of professional grade is still lightyears above consumer grade and a good distance beyond the mid-tier power tool market. However, if you stack Milwaukee up next to a middle to top tier professional grade brand, you will find it lacking in some respects.
In this regard, Milwaukee can find itself struggling to nab a spot in the 2 extreme markets we currently examine. However, that is not to say there is no place for Milwaukee brand power tools, simply the competition gets a bit stiffer than when a general contractor comes calling. In this regard, Milwaukee will lean on what it does best which is oddly little. This should not be taken as a slight against Milwaukee.
On the contrary, Milwaukee can be seen as a goldilocks lower professional grade power tool. Their power tools are reasonably reliable, though they are not known for being the most reliable brand in this class. Furthermore, Milwaukee power tools are known for being more than adequately powerful, though again, they are not generally known for being the most powerful professional grade power tools in this class.
While this might seem to present trouble, it can actually position Milwaukee to be one of the better brands for woodworkers in need of rough stage power tools. Where some brands may occasionally lack for power, especially with some of the saws, and other brands may lack for precision and reliability, again primarily with some of the saws, Milwaukee can serve to bridge both gaps. Unfortunately, this niche will not extend beyond woodworkers.
When it comes to DIYers, it can be a bit tougher of a sell to recommend a Milwuakee. Keep in mind, like any professional grade power tool, the trouble with recommending them to a DIYer is not the quality. In fact, every professional grade power tool will provide more than enough quality for virtually every DIYer. No, the issue with a DIYer is value, or more specifically cost.
If the DIYer does not intend to use their power tools all that often, maybe 10 hours a month or less, investing in a professional grade power tool with a premium cost will see diminishing returns in value. In this instance, it would be better for a DIYer to look for a relatively reliable mid-tier power tool.
Moreover, if a DIYer is set on purchasing a professional grade power tool, the single quality which can justify this expense is reliability and durability. Now, while Milwaukee is an excellent brand of power tools with admirable reliability, it is not, strictly speaking, the most reliable brand of professional grade power tools. As such, with the prices more or less the same at this product class, the DIYer is better served investing the higher cost into a power tool that is likely to last longer.
Porter Cable Tools
You can consider Porter-Cable another victim of Black & Decker’s cannibalizing of American power tool manufacturers. Thankfully, Porter-Cable has not seen its quality or reputation diminish to the same extent that some other brands consumed by Black & Decker have. However, that still does not change the fact that Porter-Cable was once known as a professional grade of power tool manufacturer and is not truly recognized as such any longer. Still, that actually positions Porter-Cable in a uniquely advantageous position on our list.
First the bad: Porter-Cable is not the brand to purchase if you are a woodworker with decent skill. It is not so much that Porter-Cable is a poor brand power tools for this market. It is more the fact that there are numerous other brands within the mid-tier market that are comparable in terms of price or quality. Moreover, woodworkers with a solid skillset will likely seek a professional grade power tool instead. In fact, even if the wood worker is simply seeking a power tool for rough work, the lower end of the professional grade is preferable to a mid-tier power tool brand.
Still, the mid-tier designation makes Porter-Cable ideal for the DIYer. This is especially true for the regular DIYer who is liable to put their power tools to use for at least a handful of hours every weekend. In fact, it is the regular DIYer that might find the best value with Porter-Cable power tools. First, Porter-Cable power tools are known for being one of the more reliable brands within the mid-tier market.
For a DIYer, reliability is one of the premium qualities to consider when selecting a power tool. With aggregated value being the ultimate goal, reliability is one of the primary factors that goes into determining value. Of course, the other primary factor that determines value is price. In this regard, Porter-Cable also does exceptionally well. While they may be a bit pricier than the consumer grade power tools, they are also far more reliable.
However, the occasional DIYer may have to think a little bit harder before purchasing a Porter-Cable. Keep in mind, this has little to do with Porter-Cable power tools’ ability to accomplish any of the myriad of tasks an occasional DIYer may ask of it. However, the less often one uses power tools, the less likely those power tools will be used for complex jobs. As such, the fact that Porter-Cable provides a solid quality action across numerous categories of power tools may not end up being that relevant to a rare DIYer.
Another aspect about the Porter-Cable brand that will make it less suited for the occasional DIYer is its ergonomics. Quite simply, Porter-Cable are some of the least ergonomic power tools on the market. In fairness, when it comes time to trim the fat, so the brand can provide a solid action at a lower than premium price, something has to go. With Porter-Cable, an unwillingness to reduce either the power or quality of action with their power tools left ergonomics on the chopping block. As such, the occasional DIYer who is far more likely to be concerned with the comfort of using power tools which are not often used may opt for a more ergonomically designed brand of power tools instead.
As another post-World War I company, Powermatic has a long history that begins like most of the legacy companies do: with a single man. In 1921, Leonard F. Smith realized that industrial woodworkers could create a better product if their lumber came pre-planed. However, rather than purchase a planer from an already established company, Smith did what most of the great power tool company founders did: he invented his own. From that innovation, Smith was able to secure the funds necessary to start Powermatic.
However, this planer was so well-crafted and industrial woodworking in such a high demand that Smith soon saw orders for his machines rise to the point where he would need an entire factory to keep up with the manufacturing demands. Though the company would ultimately change hands numerous times throughout the years, the quality of Powermatic power tools would continue to be one of the defining pinnacles of the market. To this day, Powermatic makes its name as a producer of some of the highest quality industrial woodworking machines available, smacking right up against the ceiling of the upper level of the professional grade market.
However, this strict adherence to the highest quality definitely places some market barriers on Powermatic. While this has little to no effect on how successful the company can be in its own right, it definitely affect the number of consumers who are in the market for such a machine. Quite simply, unless you are a professional woodworker engaged in industrial level woodworking projects, it will not make much sense for you to purchase a Powermatic.
This means even highly skilled hobbyists, from which some of the most masterful woodworking craftsman come, will not get the kind of return on their investment they might otherwise desire--unless they are able to sell their projects for 1,000s of dollars. Moreover, as the description suggests, Powermatic does not offer hand tools or even hand held power tools which are not almost exclusively used in the production of industrial woodworking projects. However, this brand does provide a full array of woodworking tools, even those that are considered far more specialized than most--like panel saws or power feeders.
Needless to say, DIYers need not apply. Aside from the fact that most of Powermatic’s tools are too specific to find consistent use among even the most regular weekend warrior, it is almost inconceivable that the DIYer will use the tool often enough to justify the purchase. Granted, this may be one of the better woodworking tool brands you can find, but should a DIYer really drop 1,000s of dollars on their own for such a specialized tool?
This can also effectively rule out developing woodworkers who would probably be better served getting a less expensive brand while they continue to refine and hone their skillsets. Outside of the professional woodworker who spends all day making furniture which requires a high degree of skill, only the most dedicated hobbyists or those with enough disposable income they do not truly know what to do with it should look this direction.
Much like Bostitch, Ridgid got its start outside of the general power tool consideration, though not so far--like some of the Japanese brands--that the transition did not make sense. Essentially, Ridgid made its name as a manufacturer of plumbing tools--both hand tools and power tools. Still, Ridgid is probably best known for their development of the pipe wrench, a design that is so perfect and simple that it remains almost completely unchanged today.
Still, it was a long time coming before Ridgid fully expanded their manufacturing to include a larger suite of general power tools. In fact, the company, founded in 1923 by Carl Inqwer Sr., went through a World War and the golden age of power tool manufacturing before entering the market. Even an acquisition by the conglomerate Emerson Electric did not push Ridgid beyond its specialty for plumbing tools--though Ridgid did continue to innovate plumbing tools during that entire course. No, it was not until 2003 when Ridgid saw an opening in the professional grade market--after Black & Decker had acquired most of the American brand market and subsequently watered down their quality depleting their reputations.
In terms of our niches, Ridgid has a tough hill to climb. When compared to price and quality, Ridgid is more or less a professional grade power tool manufacturer. Considering their sterling reputation within the field of plumbing tools this makes sense. However, due to being a relatively newcomer to the scene, Ridgid definitely lags behind in numerous areas where one would generally expect a professional grade of power tools to shine.
Primarily, Ridgid power tools are a bit bare bones when compared to the competition. In this regard, Ridgid can be seen as a finished a more mature evolution of Porter-Cable’s intended destination--assuming it does not drastically alter its progression. Both power tool manufacturers provide an excellent action with solid power. However, both manufacturers are noted for being light on additional features.
For Ridgid, this creates a problem as they are definitely priced outside of the general DIY range. Moreover, if a DIYer is going to opt for the additional investment of a professional grade power tool, they generally expect that that tool will come with all of the bells and whistle that most other professional grade power tools do.
In this instance, one cannot help but wonder if merging with DeWalt would cure what ails both companies. Ridgid would be able to provide the quality action, power, and reliability that is as of yet keeping DeWalt from truly reclaiming its professional grade, while DeWalt would offer the full range of extra features that generally come standard on their products.
Regardless, this quality can leave Ridgid a bit out in the cold when it comes to woodworkers too. As noted, while woodworkers are accustomed to paying a bit more for a professional grade power tool, they too have also come to expect some of the nicer extra features to be provided standard with that additional investment. As such, when a woodworker looks at Ridgid, generally for the purposes of rougher stage work, they cannot help but find it lacking--especially when you consider that the other brands of professional grade power tools are at the same price point.
Rockwell Tools is one of the few brands on our list that does not have a storied history. However, that does not mean that Rockwell Tools suffers from a lack of pedigree either. In fact, the creation of Rockwell Tools can trace its roots to members of different companies all working within or with legacy brands prior to Rockwell Tolls’ formation. The first of these founders is Don Gao who started the Positec Tool Corporation in China. Positec was an outsourced company that manufactured power tools for more established consumer grade brands, especially Black & Decker.
The second half of Rockwell Tools is Tom Duncan. Duncan was the Vice President of Bosch, the manufacturer of professional grade power tools. In the early 2000s, Duncan saw an opening in the power tool market for a high-end consumer grad of power tools. Duncan then left Bosch in 2003 and purchased the rights to the name “Rockwell.” The next year, Duncan partnered with Gao and Rockwell Tools was born. However, it was not until 2009 that Rockwell Tools was able to make a big enough dent in the consumer grade power tool market to be offered its first entry in chain stores.
In terms of niche, Rockwell Tools are still a consumer grade of power tools. However, this brand is a bit more like Ryobi and a bit less like Black & Decker, despite Gao’s experience with the latter. Rockwell power tools will generally provide a solid amount of power and decent action, though nowhere near the quality of a professional grade power tool. Still, as a consumer grade power tool trying to capture the high-end subdivision of the market,
Rockwell is often a bit higher priced than its class of competitors--another similarity shared with Ryobi. Thankfully, the price and quality matchup well with one another as well-known DIY media outlets have recognized Rockwell as a top performing brand within the DIY market.
In this regard, Rockwell power tools are a great option for all DIYers, whether regular weekend warriors or occasional DIYers who just need to fix a small problem around the house. With the power provided and the solid action of the tool, Rockwell power tools can generally handle any task that a DIYer will throw at them.
Keep in mind, as a relatively recent company, Rockwell Tools does not sport the same breadth of catalog that many other consumer grade power tool manufacturers do. As such, even though Rockwell Tools is one of the better brands in the consumer grade market, it is unlikely a consistent DIYer will have a full suite of them. Ultimately, a regular DIYer will have to seek out other brands to satisfy some of the more specialized tools.
For woodworkers this gets slightly more complicated. For the most part, Rockwell Tools are not generally sufficient for the exacting standards demanded by skilled woodworkers. That being said, this brand of power tool can actually be a good investment for people who are just starting out in woodworking. Generally, consumer grade power tools are not worth the investment for beginner woodworkers, but Rockwell Tools are an exception to that rule.
When it comes to a brand of power tools that explicitly positions itself as a consumer grade, it can be difficult to pass up a Ryobi. Of course, the consumer grade of power tools is full of competition, with new brands arising all the time. Still, Ryobi manages to produce an amazing value for the price of their power tools. However, it is important to remember that when seeking a consumer grade power tool, few brands will capture the best in class for all categories.
While this is generally true for any grade of power tool, some grades like the mid-tier and various degrees of professional grade, will at least have brands which consistently shine in one area or another. When it comes to consumer grade power tools, this is not always--or even often--the case. As such, just because Ryobi generally produces a great value power tool in the consumer grade market does not mean you can purchase one of their tools without doing some research.
Relative newcomers to the consumer grade market such as Genesis and Wen will often snipe a category of power tool here or there for themselves. In this regard, Ryobi can often be seen as a safe bet, but if you are determined to get the absolute best value for your power tool in the consumer grade market, you cannot simply rely on the brand’s general performance. This made all the more relevant considering Ryobi is also one of the higher priced consumer grade power tool manufacturers, though not so much as to push them out of the market.
In terms of the niches we are examining, Ryobi will not leave the DIYer. Woodworkers have little use for consumer grade power tools. In fact, if a woodworker does purchase or already own a consumer grade of power tool, chances are the woodworker never uses to consumer grade power tool for woodworking projects and will instead put the tool to work on small jobs around the house to save their professional grade tools the wear of a more menial task.
Still, for DIYers, this brand can be a place where 50 percent of their power tool collection or more comes from. First, while Ryobi is marginally more expensive than many of the other consumer grade power tools, they are also moderately better. Keep in mind “better” is a term that has many qualities factored in, so it is important to understand in which ways Ryobi is often superior--at least, in the consumer grade market.
The power and action of the Ryobi is often greater and somewhat more precise, respectively. However, Ryobi’s are not necessarily known for being more reliable or durable than other consumer grade power tool brands. In fact, one of the hallmarks of a consumer grade brand is that they are not designed to stand up to the rigors of a professional job. Often this durability issue will crop up with plastic housings, plastic fittings, or weaker metals used.
Regardless, Ryobi can be a great investment for occasional DIYers as well as regular weekend warriors. So long as the tools are not expected to perform for entire days over the course of weeks, they should stand up to the jobs adequately and provide a bit more oomph than some of the other brands of consumer grade power tools.
Skil is a somewhat unique brand in terms of how its history unfolded. It is one of the few brands that was eventually sold to a larger power tool company whose name is not Black & Decker. As such, this has led Skil to lead an unusual development, though not too divergent from what we have come to expect. For instance, Skil is an older brand, though it is one of the brands that actually originated following World War I.
Moreover, Skil is another company which is a result of a single entrepreneur developing an early innovation in the power tool industry. Finally, Skil is a brand that begun its career as a professional grade power tool and eventually saw itself shift into the consumer grade market. Much of this is par for the course at this point, though Skil has thrown in a few curveballs.
First, Skil is actually a brand with two grades. The consumer brand, Skil, is the one that is easiest to find and purchase today. True to the consumer grade, Skil sacrifices a bit quality in order to provide extremely competitive prices. However, Skil also produces a professional grade of power tool, Skilsaw. This professional grade brand actually takes its name from the invention that made the company famous in the first place. In fact, the reason a category of circular saw is often called a skilsaw in general is due to the popularity and effectiveness of this initial product.
Regardless, Skil as a brand has a bit of a rocky road when it comes to our list’s purposes. First, as a consumer grade product, Skil is not suitable for most woodworking projects. In fact, even for rough stages of woodworking, Skil does not provide the necessary quality--along any metric--to be suited for this task. At the least, a woodworker should use a mid-tier power tool for rough stages of the project. However, even then, a mid-tier power tool is better used by a woodworker who is still developing their skills.
When it comes to the DIYers, Skil will have a tough time standing out here as well. Even as a consumer grade power tool, Skil does not truly stand out in any area. Where this was a bit of a strength for the Milwaukee when it comes to rough stage work with woodworkers, the same goldilocks effect does not apply for Skil and DIYers looking for a consumer grade power tool.
The answer is fairly straight-forward. Skil will rarely compete with the absolutely least expensive product in the consumer grade market--a title that often goes to Black & Decker. However, Skil is not necessarily one of the more superior consumer grade power tool brands either.
In this regard, the occasional DIYers are likely to look for a cheaper brand. If they are willing to spend a bit more, occasional DIYers will generally look for a brand that provides a better action and more power. For regular DIYers, Skil is simply not powerful enough or reliable enough to keep up for any length of time. If the consistent weekend warrior simply needs a cheap power tool for a single job, they make look in Skil’s direction, but there is simply too much competition for that to be a common enough occurrence.
Wrapping It Up
What Are Good Tool Brands?
So what is our opinion on the best tool brand?
I use power tool brands by quality and I'm not a dedicated follower of a specific tool manufacturer. I have a Bosch sander, DeWalt circular saw, Porter Cable cordless drill, and so on.
What's the bottom line?
Whether a DIYer or a serious woodworker, before you buy a tool or set of tools, you need to make an honest assessment of your needs and intended uses of the tools you intend to buy.
Otherwise, you could end up spending way too much money for a tool you will rarely use. Or waste money on a tool that simply isnt suited for the degree of precision your job demands.
For the occasional DIYer, the consumer grade of power tools is where you should stay. You can often find great value in this market with a quality tool that belies the relatively inexpensive price point.
Keep in mind, the least expensive tool may not always satisfy your needs, infrequent though they may be. Ryobi is a solid brand of consumer grade tools, though their cordless models have a tendency to provide a better value than their corded one.
So what are good tool brands?
For the regular weekend warrior, you may be able to float by with a couple of consumer grade tools, depending on the category. But the mid-tier market is where a fair amount of your collection should come from.
For tools that require a bit more precision, the professional grade can serve you well. Considering your needs are higher than the occasional DIYer but value is still important, the durability and reliability of Bosch may be a good place go. They're definitely professional grade and a bit pricier than some of the solid mid-tier brands.
Finally, the incredibly high demands placed on master woodworkers do not truly single out any brand. Granted, you're far less likely to find an acceptable tool in the consumer or even mid-tier market, unless it is for rough work. But the professional grade tools will generally spread the quality around.
It shouldn't be uncommon for a highly skilled woodworker to own and use a handful of different brands, each providing the best option for that specific category.
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